Body ownership and agency altered by an electromyographically controlled robotic arm.
Sato Y., Kawase T., Takano K., Spence C., Kansaku K.
Understanding how we consciously experience our bodies is a fundamental issue in cognitive neuroscience. Two fundamental components of this are the sense of body ownership (the experience of the body as one's own) and the sense of agency (the feeling of control over one's bodily actions). These constructs have been used to investigate the incorporation of prostheses. To date, however, no evidence has been provided showing whether representations of ownership and agency in amputees are altered when operating a robotic prosthesis. Here we investigated a robotic arm using myoelectric control, for which the user varied the joint position continuously, in a rubber hand illusion task. Fifteen able-bodied participants and three trans-radial amputees were instructed to contract their wrist flexors/extensors alternately, and to watch the robotic arm move. The sense of ownership in both groups was extended to the robotic arm when the wrists of the real and robotic arm were flexed/extended synchronously, with the effect being smaller when they moved in opposite directions. Both groups also experienced a sense of agency over the robotic arm. These results suggest that these experimental settings induced successful incorporation of the prosthesis, at least for the amputees who took part in the present study.